Friday, July 31, 2020

The kind of testing we need

I went and got tested at one of the many free, drive-through, city-run, partnership testing centers. How great to be in a city where tests are free and available to all. Thanks, Mayor Lightfoot, for your leadership on this front and for making sure that the city has enough test kits.  

It was an easy process -- mouth swab instead of nasal poke -- without a doctor's prescription. The last point is important since so many people lack health insurance and can't afford to see a doctor. If there was ever a case to be made for Medicare For All, this horrific pandemic makes the case.

The best part was getting my negative (no COVID) test results back within 48 hours. The private clinics and testing sites offered 5-7 day returns.

You will rarely hear me say this, but Bill Gates is right on this one. Most U.S. coronavirus tests are a “complete waste” because it takes so long to get results in time for people to self-isolate once they find out they have the virus. 

It's borderline criminal... that both presidential candidates, as well as the leadership of our teacher unions, stand opposed to MFA even as reported U.S. COVID-19 cases top 4.5M and with deaths exceeding 154,000. Why are Democrats and some union leaders so wedded to job-based insurance at a time of record-high unemployment?

A Medicare for All amendment advanced in the DNC's platform committee by Bernie Sanders supporters was rejected overwhelmingly on Monday, garnering just 36 “yes,” versus 125 “no,” votes from a committee dominated by Biden backers. Proposals to lower the Medicare eligibility age and expand access for children were also rejected.


But some delegates who support Medicare for All aren’t satisfied. As of Monday afternoon, more than 600 delegates had signed onto a pledge to vote against the party platform if it doesn’t support a Medicare for All system.

Monday, July 27, 2020


Congressman Chuy Garcia
“Your tactics and your troops are not welcome in Chicago. Don’t even think about trying what you did in Portland in Chicago. Not here, not ever, not on our watch." -- CBS2
Philly Dist. Atty. Larry Krasner
Trump Is a “Wannabe Fascist.” I Will Charge His Agents If They Break Law. -- Democracy Now
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
 "Well, I have said it before and I will say it again, no troops, no agents that are coming in outside of our knowledge, notification, and control that are violating people's constitutional rights." -- Business Insider
Elon Musk, ravings of an imperialist

Thursday, July 23, 2020

A Paper Tiger

Critics said the president is testing out heavy-handed enforcement in Portland, a largely white city known as one of the most progressive in the nation, before moving on to more diverse cities. -- USA Today
Donald Trump is a paper tiger, meaning he's dangerous but weak. He's also at times, our best organizer. Sending his shock troops into Portland failed in its stated purpose but helped unify the city behind the protest movement which led to a resounding victory last night.

Current polls have Trump looking like a loser in November. Not just him but down-ticket Republicans as well. Control of the Senate is now up for grabs. He's not only running behind in the midwest battleground states, but he's being challenged and even falling behind in his own base areas like Texas.

Once several of his Republican allies started peeling off, his response has been to pretty much abandon all democratic means and resort to open violence and intimidation, flailing about wildly, and directing his point of attack directly at the growing protest movement and at the Democrats' base in the cities where the movement has taken its greatest hold. All that's just made things worse for him.

He's failed miserably at painting all opposition forces as "radical leftists", "anarchists", and "terrorists." His threats to use of federal storm troopers to "dominate" the protesters and exact retribution have come up empty.
"You have to dominate or you'll look like a bunch of jerks, you have to arrest and try people," the President told the governors in a June call from the basement White House Situation Room, according to an audio recording of the call obtained by CNN.
But far from dominating, his threats have fallen flat and have only broadened the resistance of local mayors and state officials and made him look even weaker. After being overwhelmed by militant protesters and the wall of moms in Portland last night, Trump's shock troops retreated back to their federal building fortress, but not before gassing the crowd which included Mayor Ted Wheeler who had joined protesters in the streets.

Wall of Moms
Wheeler, a Democrat, was among the 15 mayors, including Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, Bottoms of Atlanta, and Bowser of D.C. who wrote an open letter to the Dept. of Justice on Wednesday in which they condemned Trump for an “abuse of power” in deploying federal forces in cities.

After last night's setback in the streets of Portland, Trump made a call to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. A contrite-sounding Trump walked back his threat to send troops into Chicago.

Philly's progressive D.A. Larry Krasner echoed the mayors, agreeing to work cooperatively with federal officials but threatening to have uninvited Trump shock troops arrested if they attacked protesters
Finally, Trump is even implying that he may not leave office when he loses the election. It would give me great pleasure to be among the grand army of citizens that escorts him and his grifter family from the White House.

Monday, July 20, 2020


Trump's federal cops descend on Portland. Chicago is next. 
Nearly two dozen lawmakers blasted Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara's letter in a joint statement Sunday.
"We resoundingly condemn FOP President John Catanzara's request that President Trump intervene in Chicago. This is a blatant attempt to instigate further violence against the young people who are leading the fight for real safety and justice in Chicago, and is particularly frightening given the situation in Portland, where unidentified federal agents have been throwing protestors into unmarked vehicles," the elected officials' statement said. "Yet as terrifying as the reports from Portland are, we must situate Catanzara's letter in the Chicago Police Department's own history of civilian torture and kidnappings. We stand with the organizers and activists who have called for an immediate end to such practices by the CPD, and the closure of Homan Square and all CPD black sites." -- ABC7
Trump tells Chris Wallace...
“I'm not losing, because those are fake polls."Not only did Trump deny the hard data, he also refused to say if he will accept the result of November’s presidential election if he comes out the loser.
“I have to see,” he said. “Look … I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no..." -- Fox News Sunday

Joe Biden
...called on Congress to provide billions of dollars in emergency funding for school districts, which say they cannot openly safely without federal assistance to make the changes necessary and purchase enough protective equipment.
“If we do this wrong, we will put lives at risk and set our economy and our country back,” Biden said in the video. -- Washington Post
Rep. Al Green (D-TX)
"America's race problem demands radical solutions like a Department of Reconciliation." -- Think
Prof. Nathaniel Persily, Stanford Law School
 It’s Not Too Late to Save the 2020 Election. Avoiding a debacle for U.S. democracy will require getting as many Americans as possible to vote by mail and ensuring that polling places are safe, convenient, and plentiful. -- Wall Street Journal
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
“Mark Curran’s public attack on John Lewis just days after his death is disgusting. To disparage Congressman Lewis, a truly selfless hero and relentless fighter for civil rights and equality is a new low for Curran. It is time for responsible Illinois Republican Party leaders to clearly repudiate Curran’s hateful rhetoric.” -- NBC5 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

There are no good choices when it comes to opening schools in the fall. I'm still hoping for something better.

TOTAL U.S. CASES3,630,58774,710 New Cases*
TOTAL DEATHS138,782918 New Deaths*
To be sure, there are decent people, mainly at the local level, trying to come up with humane plans for the fall—plans that keep our kids safe, teach them, and don’t kill thousands of teachers while doing so. The problem is, a national crisis has a way of exacerbating everything that is weak with the underlying society, and our child care and school systems were hobbled and broken well before Covid-19 reared its viral head. -- Elie Mystal in The Nation
The current national and local debates about a "safe" opening of school buildings in the midst of the worst, deadliest pandemic in a century is perplexing, often bordering on the absurd.

Here's the conundrum: There are no safe havens from COVID-19 any place where groups gather indoors without adequate spacing, ventilation, and protection. And there's no authentic learning that can take place without, physical and social interaction, especially in early childhood grades.

On the local level, as summer draws to a close, the school-opening issue is becoming charged with emotion, frustration, and angry contention between school boards and teacher unions. Teachers have always taken the necessary risks involved when it comes to supporting and protecting their students.

But going back into the classroom under current conditions, without the resources and protections necessary for themselves, their students and families would be reckless and senseless.

Parents are especially torn between desperately wanting their children back in school to keep them from losing learning opportunities and because they need to get back to work, on the one hand, and fearing for their safety on the other. The latter, of course, should be all of our number-one concern.

No one has come up with a safe plan for opening in the fall, despite whatever Trump/DeVos may mandate. Nothing we do now can undo the bad decisions they made early on. If not for this failure of leadership, we might have contained the pandemic and enabled a reasonably safe school opening, the way it was accomplished in many other countries.

As for online learning, it appears we're stuck with it this year and probably well beyond. Taken by itself, it's a mode of education that encourages privatization and superprofits for giant tech corporations, but little in the way of meaningful teaching/learning experiences. It's a mode that continues to reproduce the current system's inequities

Right now, I'm thinking of the single mom I heard from last week in an online conversation. She's the sole provider for three children, now forced to stay at home and somehow supply her kids with computers and headphones while monitoring their participation (engagement?) in separate parts of their apartment for 5 hours/day. This would be difficult under any circumstances. But without some type of guaranteed income during the pandemic, schooling for her children becomes a near-impossible mountain for her to climb.

I won't even get into the thousands of homeless children, part of our Chicago Public School system, for whom homeschooling is an oxymoron.

What all this means for the future of schools and teaching as a profession is hard to say right now. How will the transition away from traditional schooling be organized and paid for, especially when you have a Trump/DeVos regime that is racist, hateful, and punitive towards the cities and their public schools?

My hope is that something new and better than what we had before will emerge from all this. But it will take careful and creative planning with lots of money behind it.

Until we get control of the pandemic and remove Trump from power there are few good choices available. But that just emphasizes the need for a national conversation, especially among educators, about schooling and de-schooling in the Corona Era and beyond.

Monday, July 13, 2020


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives an update on the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic during a news conference at Florida's Turnpike Turkey Lake Service Plaza, in Orlando on July 10, 2020.
Gov. Rick DeSantis orders Florida schools to open despite his state shattering the U.S. record for increased COVID cases. If Florida were a country, it would rank fourth in the world for the most new cases in a day behind the U.S., Brazil, and India, according to a Reuters analysis.
Ed. Sec. Betsy DeVos echoes Trump's threat
"American investment in education is a promise to students and their families," she said. "If schools aren't going to reopen and not fulfill that promise, they shouldn't get the funds." -- Fox News
 U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley to Betsy DeVos on schools reopening
"I wouldn’t trust you to care for a house plant, let alone my child." -- Boston Globe
Naomi Klein
When you slow down, you can feel things; when you’re in that constant rat race, it doesn’t leave much time for empathy. From its very beginning, the virus has forced us to think about interdependencies and relationships. The first thing you are thinking about is: everything I touch, what has somebody else touched? The food I am eating, the package that was just delivered, the food on the shelves. These are connections that capitalism teaches us not to think about. -- Guardian
Sam Nunberg, GOP political consultant
“While voters may push away from Trump if he loses, it’s not that they didn’t like his agenda. They won’t like that he failed in implementing it and failed at getting re-elected.” -- Guardian
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
...said that even with the rising rates, he still wants the schools to reopen as scheduled next month, saying children have not proven to be vectors for the disease in states and countries where campuses are open. He said while each county will have to come up with procedures, depending on their local infection rate, not opening the schools would exacerbate the achievement gap between high- and low-performing students. -- Chicago Tribune

Friday, July 10, 2020

Teacher talk has shifted from cops to corona

Two weeks ago, the battle was raging over cops in the schools. Who should decide whether Chicago schools get to keep or lose their SRO -- the school board or the city council? Or should it be left up to each local school council to opt-in or out, as the mayor had argued?

Should the $33M contract between CPS and the CPD be broken or renewed? And if it were broken, could that money be better spent on vital school needs like nurses, social workers, and peer mediation counselors?

Things got hot and at times personal, which is the Chicago way, it seems. As the late, great Harold Washington used to say in response to his own council wars, "Politics ain't beanbag."

While I was hoping that the school board would vote to ditch the contract, I've been more inclined to leave decisions like this one to the individual school community. Having said that, I thought the board members had a pretty good, spirited debate, with open hearings and protests taking place outside, before voting narrowly (4-3) to keep the contract and leave the decision up to the local schools.

So far, only one school, Northside College Prep, has opted out, but schools have until August 15th to make their decision.

Kenwood Academy, on the city's south side, has decided to keep their cop.

This from the Hyde Park Herald:
Interviews with local school council members, including teachers and parents, and elected student body leaders at Kenwood Academy describe a school where stationed police officers play a limited, necessary role, and all interviewees support their continued presence at the school.
The board is scheduled to revisit the issue in August when the contract runs out and the city council will also get to vote on it. By then, conditions may have radically changed.

Real life, meaning COVID-19, keeps rearing its ugly head, and the only teacher talk I'm hearing these days is not about cops in their school, but whether Chicago school buildings should even reopen in the fall. If they do open in the midst of a swelling, deadly pandemic, the SRO in the school will be the least of our worries. And if schools can't open safely, then the cop issue becomes moot, for now at least, and there will be no need for the board or the city council to renew the CPD contract in August.

The CTU polled its members and found that more than 85% of them feel they should not or might not go back to work in the fall without a detailed plan and resources that will help guarantee the safe re-opening of our schools.
“Our members have made it very clear that they are not willing to put the health—and the lives, quite frankly—of their students, or their students’ families, or their own in jeopardy under any circumstances, and especially now if the Trump administration is talking about using them as guinea pigs to help jumpstart the economy,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. 
Gov. Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot each seemed to be in step with Sharkey in targeting Trump's threats to withhold funding to states and districts that resist his reopen-schools mandate.

Lightfoot pushed back on Trump's demand that schools reopen regardless of the COVID threat.
“It doesn’t make any sense” for the president to make such a sweeping announcement when he doesn’t know how coronavirus is impacting individual school districts. “I don’t put much weight into what President Trump says,” the mayor told reporters.
That unified messaging may provide a good framework for reaching some badly-needed agreement in the ongoing negotiations between CPS and the unions.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The AAP's school guidance principles don't align with Trump/DeVos mandated reopening.

President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are threatening to cut federal funding if schools don't fully physically reopen in the fall, regardless of the state of the pandemic and with or without required CDC safety measures being in place.

They may think they think their reckless mandate is supported by the highly respected American Academy of Pediatrics. But it isn't. At least not if I'm reading the AAP's planning recommendations for school reopening correctly.

The AAP, the professional organization of pediatricians, would like to see schools reopen safely in the fall, as would most of us, especially most working families. But the timing of this report left some wondering if these experts on pediatric care were fronting for Trump and the mainly Republican early-openers who have driven up the deadly coronavirus caseload numbers across the country.

The organization “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with the goal of having students physically present in school” -- and the reasons are not just about academics.
The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality. Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.
But the AAP guidance goes on to present an extensive list of key principles that should be considered in the course of any reopening. The list includes elements like physical distancing requirements, protective equipment, cohort crossovers, school visitors, common and outdoor space (playgrounds and hallways), on-site health and counseling, special education services, block scheduling in high schools, cleaning and disinfection, and virologic testing and screening and much more.

This one is interesting.
The personal impact on educators and other school staff should be recognized. In the same way that students are going to need support to effectively return to school and to be prepared to be ready to process the information they are being taught, teachers cannot be expected to be successful at teaching children without having their mental health needs supported. 
Do you know of any schools or school districts that can have all or any of these in place in the next six to eight weeks, especially with existing budget and personnel constraints? I sure don't.

The list is comprehensive and makes for a great framework or checklist for educators and school planners. A serious review of the guidance should make it clear that its scope and required planning time and the extra resources needed for implementation fly directly in the face of the Trump/DeVos demands for a fall opening with no money or prerequisites attached.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Can schools open safely in the fall? Discuss...

Can schools reopen in the fall? And by open, I mean with children, educators, and staff safely occupying school buildings which are now shuttered because of the pandemic. If we're just talking about distance learning, then we have to say schools are already open and teachers have been hard at work since the outbreak of coronavirus, trying under near-impossible, inequitable conditions to rebuild their learning communities solely via the internet.

And if schools do reopen, which in one form or another now seems likely, will the educational value being offered and received outweigh the risks to the health and very lives of millions of students and their teachers?

It's complicated. But right now, I would say no.

As the end of summer approaches, Trump and his know-nothing ed secretary Betsy DeVos are threatening school districts that don't fully open.

Florida’s Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, a Republican, issued a sweeping executive order Monday requiring all schools in the state to reopen their buildings for in-person instruction for the coming school year, even as coronavirus cases in the state continue to skyrocket.

A piece in The Atlantic by former Obama Dept. of Homeland Security Asst. Sec. Juliette Kayyem correctly calls reopening schools "an afterthought."
Schools do not have a simple on-off switch. To reopen schools will not just take a lot of money. Classroom layouts, buildings, policies, schedules, extracurricular activities, teacher and staff assignments, and even curricula must all be altered to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission.
But having said that and showing she understands the depth of the safe reopening problem and the obvious lack of planning and resources as fall approaches, former  Kayyem says, do it anyway.

Recognizing that the massive resources and planning needed for a safe reopening in the fall aren't coming, she writes:
Americans must learn to manage around the virus, to mitigate its potential for spread. Fall isn’t far off, and school systems nationwide need to make up for lost time. A bar doesn’t need a groundswell of public support to reopen, but schools most certainly do.
Maybe we need to hear more from educators and others most directly affected on this topic, and less from homeland security experts.

The teacher unions have taken a strong stand on the need for more school funding and the for extra staffing, but seem to also be calling for a "safe reopening" in the fall, as if that's likely or really possible. But to their credit, they also are pressing school districts to allow teachers to opt out of teaching in person.

Kind of like Major League Baseball or the NBA. It makes sense.

In Chicago, the reopening discussion has been mainly focused on cops in the schools, with little public discussion coming from any side about the pressing issues above.

The real threat to student and teacher safety this year, however, doesn't come from the SRO posted in the school but from the corona wildfire pandemic itself. Until a vaccine is available, the resources and planning necessary for a safe reopening are too great to be put in place in the next eight weeks.

CONUNDRUM...Resource-starved local school districts just aren't up to the task. But neither have they been able to offer equitable resources, professional development, or viable programs for stay-at-home kids and teachers. Today's version of Catch-22.

HARVARD...Even with their $41B endowment and some of the smartest people in the educational field, the university has still not found a way to open its classrooms to live instruction this fall. Incredibly, their students are still being charged full tuition of $50K to take online classes.

And speaking of Catch-22, Trump is taking full advantage of the crisis in post-secondary ed by threatening immigrant students with deportation unless they enroll in regular classrooms.

This might be the right time for undergrads in high-tuition colleges to take a gap year or to enroll in a community college.

An even better alternative might be to spend the fall and into the winter marching and demanding the things we need to save public ed. The Movement is a fine classroom.

I'm reviving my nearly-dormant Small Schools twitter page to encourage a more focused discussion on schooling in the corona and post-corona era. Feel free to follow and post or repost. 

Monday, July 6, 2020


Frederick Douglass on the Lincoln statue 
“The negro here, though rising, is still on his knees and nude. What I want to see before I die is a monument representing the negro, not couchant on his knees like a four-footed animal, but erect on his feet like a man.” -- 1876 Letter
President Trump
“Now we have tested almost 40 million people. By so doing, we show cases, 99% of which are totally harmless.”  -- Guardian
Mayor Quinton Lucas
“Systemic racism doesn’t just evidence itself in the criminal justice system,” said Quinton Lucas, who is the third Black mayor of Kansas City, Mo., which is in a state where 40 percent of those infected are Black or Latino even though those groups make up just 16 percent of the state’s population. -- The fullest look yet at Corona inequality (NYT)
Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi 
“We seem to have a president that has given the green light to the racists to come out of the woodwork and start attacking Asians,” said state Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Rolling Hills Estates), who represents Torrance, the scene of some the most widely viewed hate episodes recorded on video. -- L.A. Times
Steve Hotze, Houston GOP powerbroker 
Hotze left a voicemail with TX Gov. Abbott's chief of staff with the incendiary instruction, "Shoot to kill."
 "I want to make sure that he has National Guard down here and they have the order to shoot to kill if any of these son-of-a-bitch people start rioting like they have in Dallas, start tearing down businesses — shoot to kill the son of a bitches. That’s the only way you restore order. Kill 'em. Thank you." -- Texas Tribune

Sunday, July 5, 2020

KIPP's rebranding

A little more than a decade ago, teacher union organizers in the midst of an organizing drive at a KIPP charter school in Brooklyn, used KIPP's slogan, "Work hard. Be Nice" against the school's anti-union leaders. They launched a national campaign urging KIPP teachers everywhere to get organized under the slogan of "Be Nice."

Now, feeling the impact of the continuing Black Lives Matter protests, as well as criticisms of sexual abuse and racism coming from within their own ranks, KIPP, one of the first "no excuses" charters, has announced they are dumping the slogan altogether. The move is in many ways, comparable to the name changes being considered under pressure, by Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians and the NFL's Washington Red***ns. It could easily fall under the heading: Giving up a little to hold on to a lot.

But whether the superficial rebranding will mean an end to KIPP's abusive discipline practices remains to be seen. For example, they have so far failed to adequately address the allegations of sexual harassment and assault of girls of color by one of their founders, Mike Feinberg which they kept buried until the Me Too movement emerged and he was finally fired.

Unimaginable in this day and age, but true...The Texas Tribune reports that Feinberg's teaching credential has been restored by some administrative judges who claimed there wasn't enough evidence to justify revoking Feinberg's state certification over an allegation of sexual misconduct from more than 20 years ago.

According to the Tribune:
The case, though, only examined one of the claims that KIPP said prompted Feinerg's firing. The hearing did not examine two other allegations of sexual harassment by two additional adult KIPP alumni.
“This proposal for decision does not change the circumstances of Mike Feinberg’s departure from KIPP,” said a KIPP spokesperson, referring to the recommendation.
All this leaves me wondering what crime you would have to commit in order to have your teaching license pulled in TX?